Tuesday 02 JAN 2017 – Sea Love Marina, Ponce de Leon Inlet, FL
Yesterday’s weather deteriorated steadily. As predicted, gale force winds (35mph+) arrived midday. On top of it, it started to rain. We stayed inside the boat all day bouncing on the waves, being jerked on the lines connecting us to the dock, but relived to be attached to something. By the evening we realized that the water will be a choppy mess for a while. We may be delayed at least two days more because there’s another storm coming the day after tomorrow. We start another waiting pattern.
This morning’s weather, though colder, is dry and dark. The winds have lessened, so Glenn and I put on some warm togs to go exploring. Our first direction, east on Beach Road, takes us past many mid-sized suburban homes with well-maintained and mature landscaping. There are tall palms and old oaks trees and abundant tropical greenery. In not much time we get to the other side of the island and to a ramp that leads to the beach that faces the ocean. The seas are wild today. The storm’s heavy swell is still producing large breaking, sand-filled waves and the beach is covered in debris, natural and unnatural. The winds have knocked over signs and port-a-potties. All over the sand there are large amounts of brown, grassy seaweed piles, each mixed with tiny flecks of primary-colored plastic chunks of human-made stuff. And, in between, there are vast expanses of dirty sea foam, a foot and a half deep, giggling in the breeze.
The beach is barely passable so we go instead back to the road traveling further south. Almost at the end, we enter a state park and then find a nature path that encases us in a suffocation of more oaks, palms, firs, and moss. From this winding, messy path we get delivered to an asphalt parking lot, that leads to a bathroom facility, that leads to a wooden walkway, that leads to a tall lifeguarding station, that leads to a heavy stone jetty, that projects far into the water and periodically gets drenched with gushing sprays. I imagine on calmer days this breakwater would be an effective guard. Today though, the inlet is raging. We hang back on the walkway and, while a little bit tempted, don’t get on the jetty.
We continue our walk around the end of the island going past the rust-colored Ponce lighthouse and rounding northward to head back to the marina. The lighthouse is very tall, and for that reason would be fun to climb, but we decide to save our money and have a snack instead. We stop at the Hidden Treasure Rum Bar and Grill, an open-air restaurant situated between a sand bar, whose docks have been attacked by Matthew, and a massive oak tree whose three-foot diameter branches sprawl horizontally, at table height, across the dining space.
These trees. What are these trees? Around every bend, the deeper south we move, the more their coiled, rough limbs extend to me, want me. And their interest in me interests me, in the way I’ve started love affairs before. The southern live-oak, the Quercus Virginiana, is native to the coastal south. It is a giant species whose trunk resembles the northern, more common-to-me, oak, but whose leaves are completely different. For one, these leaves are evergreen (hence the name “live”), never shedding in the winter, and for another, the shape is oblong, small and smooth in profile, not large and wavy like their cousin leaves. But what I am really drawn to, and a bit afraid of, is the overall shapes of these wild, writhing dragons. They are huge, yes, but it’s the contorted branch-arms that don’t merely grow, but reach, as if organized, as if aiming and specific. William Faulkner was grabbed by a live oak early in his career. While on the coast of Mississippi in the summer of 1925, before he had written anything noteworthy, a twenty-eight year-old Faulkner rented a small four-room beach house in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It is said that the house had both a magnolia and a live-oak growing through it. And it is said that Bill, enraptured by the local beauty, sat at a board seat that encircled the oak with his small typewriter on a bench and wrote and wrote and wrote for her. Helen Baird, the beauty, ultimately rejected him, but the oak never did. While it is said she was the love of his life that he never forgot, he named his beloved house the Rowan Oak after the beauty that wanted him.
I realize now that I have been seeing my live oak for a long while. We became a couple at Fort Monroe when he (she?) first flirted with me. It was first-sight quick. There, among the historical canons and the children’s swings and the pet graves, I fell immediately, instantly, in wild love. You know what I didn’t care about? Age. Normally, I go for the new, the young, the shiny, but these panthers were old, older than the Fort, that’s for sure. Maybe that’s why they were preserved. Their age, in the hundreds of years, was too much to murder with a simple ax.
Wednesday 03 JAN 2017 – Sea Love Marina, Ponce de Leon Inlet, FL
This is a strange “town.” We walk its streets but don’t see many others. Are we in a ghost town? There are people here, I think. Some cars drive by, but there isn’t a spot with a town center or a library or a grocery store, just houses and houses. We eventually find a mini market a mile or two from the marina. Hoping for a half gallon of milk we find, instead, shelves of dusty souvenirs, junky food, and coolers full of beer. We get a bag of tortilla chips and a small pack of Nutter Butters. At the tiki bar next door we stumble on Happy Hour even though it’s only 1 in the afternoon. I admit though, their potato skins did make me happy.
Thursday 04 JAN 2017 – Sea Love Marina, Ponce de Leon Inlet, FL
We stay one more day waiting for the ICW to unchop. Today the weather is colder still, but, at least, brightly sunny. We turn on the propane Buddy heater to warm up the salon’s early morning chill. This helps us get out of bed and dressed. When we take our walkabout on the usual east, then south, then around and back north again, route there are considerably more people out on the island. Things feel friendlier today.
In the late morning we head into town to the Publix, a grocery chain here, to get a few food supplements. It’s far, ten miles or more. We take a Lyft for $16, half the cost of an Uber. Once at the store we have an argument about where to eat lunch. The disagreement is not that interesting because it centers on money. Our stay at the Sea Love has been $70/day and we need to watch our budget because of it. We end up eating at the supermarket and realize that we may have been cranky due to low blood sugar. We all feel better.
Friday 05 JAN 2017 – Titusville, FL
We wake up leisurely and leave at 9AM. Good riddance Sea Love, I say. This is the worst marina we have encountered on the trip. Worst in terms of price for (lack of) amenities: no water, no electricity, a filthy shower, unfriendly people, and horrible weather (I blame them for that too!)
Our cold day is split into (4) 2-hour shifts. I take #2 and #4. Throughout the day I eat too much because I feel sorry for myself.
Tonight as I clean up after dinner I look down at the little carpet in our salon. This little hunk of woven cotton caused us some trouble at the beginning of the trip. At the time we wanted… needed… ok, wanted, a carpet. But you know how it is. When you are in search, you can’t find. We hunted at every chance. We would find one that was the right size, but not a good color, or one that was a nice color, but cost too much. I’m sure you’ve been there. In Portland we found the one that we now have. It ticked enough of our boxes that we bought it. And it’s nice. But… I don’t love it. It’s an oatmeal color which is a bit too light for our space, plus it gets dirty too quickly. Also, it’s a bland texture. I mean, how can I live with that? In Lunenburg I found another mini rug. It was great. The color, the texture, the price, everything was ideal(ish). But I didn’t buy it because, well, I already had a rug. Oh, how the memory of that perfection glows now. I’m in a mood. If I were home right now I’d pick up my computer, search through hundreds of options, and regardless of redundancy, erase my boredom through consumption. I’d just buy another rug, or if I didn’t find one I’d buy something else. But out here I can’t do that. My hands are tied because I have no shipping address. Capitalism, it turns out, requires fixity. So instead, I read or play the ukulele or write or do a crossword, and soon I forget all about the rug. Good thing.
Saturday 06 JAN 2017 – Melbourne, FL
We leave for Melbourne at 9AM. It is a short trip today, only 25 miles. We could go further, but we have a friend, Patrick, who we’d like to visit, so we stop. When we arrive outside of Melbourne, we head in on the Eau Gallie River and anchor in a nice spot. We find Patrick on his boat in the Waterline Marina. It’s so nice to see him again. On land back home, we have the advantage of seeing friends whenever we want, but out here we have to deliberately “cross paths” in order to visit. Pat welcomes us with a bottle of wine and some Irish cheddar on crackers. When we met Patrick in Shelburne we instantly liked him. (If you follow the blog he’s the guy who has the face of Joe Biden and the hair of Bernie Sanders!) Anyway, he’s full of optimism and good cheer and, on top of it, he likes to talk about movies. This time when we catch up we learn that he has a new woman in his life. He is excited to talk about her, and she does sound wonderful for him especially because she’s a sailor. I almost wish him luck with everything, but with his energetic happiness and confidence it feels somehow unfitting. He doesn’t need my luck.
After a while we all want some dinner and head to a local spot. We get some beers and some dinner and talk some more. At one point Patrick tells us a tragic story about his older brother’s death at the very young age of twenty-two. The story is terribly sad particularly because of the way that Patrick is connected to it. As he talks his eyes fill with tears. The fifty years that have fallen between now and the event are not enough to eliminate the pain he still feels. What suffering are the people around us carrying, I wonder to myself. What embedded pain do people overcome to continue being hopeful?
Sunday 07 JAN 2017 – Melbourne, FL
I have nothing to report today except that I made some homemade pita and they puffed up and created pockets as they were supposed to. Small victories, people!
Monday 08 JAN 2017 – Melbourne, FL
This morning while I’m getting dressed Glenn notices that I have a bruise on my backside in a place where I can’t readily see. The more I inspect it in the mirror, the more extensive and really, really bad it looks to me. It’s from the time I fell on the cleat while docking at the Sea Love Marina a full week ago. The more I look at the contusion, it’s size and depth, the more my body hurts. Not that my body hasn’t been hurting, but suddenly, because of the sight of unearthly purple and blue and green and pink, I am in more pain. I have been given permission, that is, I let myself, be in pain, given the visual evidence that I should be. Where for a week I have been effectively ignoring the physical sensations my body has been sending my brain, now, because of my new awareness, I can no longer do that. Even if I want to go back, I am finding I can’t. I am stuck now in a pain I didn’t used to have just yesterday.